Thursday, March 20, 2008

Extra large briefs

Right, there's so much good music and stuff here right now. I wish I had time to write in detail about everything that's moved me in recent weeks, but as I haven't, I figured that (not for the first time) I'd take a page out of Brian's book and take the lazyarse route of mentioning things briefly here...

First up, a big thank you to everyone that has sent me CDs recently for one reason or another, every one of you is a warm fuzzy wonderful person. Without you, well there would be less CDs in my life and that can never be a good thing can it? Particular thanks are due to the incredibly generous, kind hearted Antoine Beuger who just about completed my Wandelweiser collection with one package of discs. I am very grateful, and hope to restart my all too brief series of Wandelweiser musings here soon.

So what have I been listening to? Well just recently I've been on something of a Martin Küchen pilgrimage. I was left a little cold by his solo release on Confront a few years back, but have always been a fan of his contributions to the group Looper. It was his involvement alongside fellow Swede Erik Carlsson and the Irish duo of Advice Lady and A Love Plug in the group Chip Shop Music that sent me back to listen to that earlier disc though, and also to pick up a stream of recent releases, the last two of which only arrived here yesterday. The best of the recent four may well be Küchen's solo Homo Sacer on the Sofa offshoot label Silion, a rare solo sax disc that really captivates me, partly because it doesn't sound much like saxophone for much of the CD. Its varies quite a bit, from the kind of extended sax techniques we have become familiar with through to strange percussive patterns and almost electronic sounding passages. Homo Sacer hits the spot for me ahead of the old Confront disc partly because it contains longer pieces that are allowed to develop and evolve rather than the short catalogue style of the pieces on that earlier disc.

Two of the other Küchen releases have been duos with the guitarist David Stackenas. The first, named Agape from a year or two back on the Creative Sources label is really good. These two musicians compliment each other well, all gritty textural conversations with a great sense of space and balance. Its clear they had played together quite a lot prior to that release as the understanding between the two is very evident. Far too many good discs seem to avoid my attention when they first come out simply because they get buried in the usual deluge of CS releases (can you believe the catalogue is now 120 releases strong?) and this is another one in that category, but I got there in the end. Yesterday I received a copy of Guardaropa Open/Closed, the duo's new release on the beautifully packaged Kning Disk label. For this release they named the duo Agape, taking up the longstanding (but slighty perplexing, why do musicians always do that?) tradition of applying the title of the first album as the group name. I played it once through early this morning and although it has yet to have the impact of the first album I enjoyed it. Stackenas plays the guitar in a traditional manner more often on this release, which gives the album a quite different dynamic here and there but hey, only one spin so far, more listens required. The final Küchen related release also came through the door yesterday, a duo with Carlsson's percussion entitled Beirut. This one seemed to be a quieter, brooding affair at first blush, I have a feeling this one will grow to be a favourite.

Other interesting items include a gorgeously packaged little 3" CDR by Matthieu Saladin that sounds one hell of a lot less cute than it looks. It is essentially a recording of the first ever released performance of John Cage's 4"33", but with the "silence" amplified up to maximum levels and resulting in a deafening roar of fascinating detail. proof indeed that there is no such thing as silence...

Kostis Kilymis has launched a new label entitled Organized Music from Thessaloniki. He's waiting for me to pass comment on the name of the label, so I won't do that and will keep him waiting, but the first three releases are all well worth hearing. Brian mentions them all in his post here, and I agree with what he has to say so I won't repeat his words. I'd like to write more on these discs if I get a chance soon however.

Two new releases from Simon Reynell's fine Another Timbre label arrived this week too. (I somehow forgot to order the third of his new releases, I'll catch up with it soon) I have a few problems with the first of the discs I bought, the quartet of Max Eastley, Graham Halliwell, Evan Parker and Mark Wastell. Well, to be honest only one problem, namely Evan Parker, whose playing I just can't abide. I was so hoping that this would be the group to move him towards something I could come to enjoy, but alas not. Well not after a single listen anyway. I need to hear it some more and stop being such a judgmental old sod. The other new Another Timbre release I picked up has just finished its first spin as I type this. Clive Bell and Bechir Saade's An account of my hut sounded lovely on that first outing, naked, unadorned traditional wind instruments, (shakuhachi and ney to be precise) played and recorded in a manner that nicely captures the human spirit behind these simple yet beautiful pieces.

A nice little curio came from the Crouton label in as delightful packaging as ever. Node and anti-nodes is a DVD put together by the percussionists (seems such a limiting term for these two) Jon Meuller and Jeph Jerman. It features a series of short films very tastefully made that capture the detail of the making of the musi of the duo, close-ups of vibrating metal, sticks and stones bouncing around etc... The disc also contains an Mp3 soundfile of the music to the films as well. A clip can be viewed here,


A couple of new blogs to mention that try and do a little more than waffle on endlessly like I do here: Compost and Height is a nice venture put together by Patrick Farmer and his girlfriend Sarah (alas I don't know Sarah's surname, sorry) The blog contains links to exclusive tracks of a field recording nature, so far by Patrick and by Jez riley French, who would kill me if I forgot to also mention his new blog here. Jez also includes links to soundfiles alongside writing in his own inimitable, passionate fashion.

On the reading front I finally finished Elizabeth Wilson's Shostakovich: A Life Remembered some seven months after I started it... Why so long? Well apart from the fact its some 600 pages long and I don't manage to find very much time to sit and read these days, I tend to have several books on the go at the same time. It would be good not to do this, and concentrate on just one at a time, but it never seems to happen. I buy books faster than I read them and so as soon as I finished this one I began Alex Ross's equally long The Rest is Noise a somewhat ambitious attempt to capture the spirit of the music of the 20th Century in one volume. Thirty-odd pages in its an enjoyable if whirlwind read so far, though I'm not sure that The Guardian's front page description of Ross as "the man that transformed classical music" is not just a tad over the top.

In other news the broadcasting behemoth that is the audition radio show trundles along, some 67 shows strong now. We achieved a first for the show a couple of weeks back when we got the trio of Phil Durrant, Lee Patterson and Paul Vogel into the studio to perform live for us. We are proud of how that one turned out. An Mp3 of the show can be heard here.

A new Cathnor release should also be in my hands this time next week, the first for far too long a time. More details on that one very soon and all being well a new Cathnor website to coincide. All being well I am off to Dublin again next weekend for the 2008 incarnation of the i and e Festival. Really looking forward to making that trip again.

Finally a new review of mine went up at Bagatellen this week, and one I am quite proud of too. It can be found here.

Oh and whatever you do, don't buy the limited edition Marmite with Champagne in it.

6 comments:

Robert said...

Hey Richard,

The Rest is Noise is not without it's flaws but for a survey book really isn't that bad. It definitely helped fill in a lot of connections and details of the tangled 20th Century web for me. To me this kind of book succeeds the best when you end up with a list of further reading, things to revisit and cd's to acquire (and I ended up buying around half a dozen so far with another dozen or so put on the list) so the book worked for me in this regard. I find Ross's writing style easy going but he still slips in some good details.

The flaws are primarily where he let his personal peccadillos have a bit too much free rein. The chapter on Britten is about as long as the chapter on the 1960s is a good example. I also found that he spent to much time on Americans in the first half of the 20th Century and too little in the second half. Experimental composers in Britain get incredibly short shrift (good one sentence summary of AMM though - getting to that should compel you to finish the book :). Honestly the whole thing pretty much ends in 1980 and fair enough but I find that a bit disingenuous for a bit the claims to be a 20th C survey. I can understand feeling one doesn't have a good grasp of the end of the century since it just ended 8 years ago, but one could wait on such a book until you do. Maybe he'll add a chapter in a revised edition in a few years.

Anyway I still think it is well worth reading and it is of course impossible to cover everything in such a fragmented decade and I think he did an admirable job in the main.

Richard Pinnell said...

Hi Robert

Yeah after just a few pages it seems a pretty easy book to digest. Its readable and is without the stuffiness that often comes with this kind of material.

My mild cynicism towards it comes from the media overkill the book seems to be getting over here (its only just launched on these shores) That header line in The Guardian came from the front page, and was coupled with a five page somewhat fawning interview/write-up. Ross has also been on the Radio 4 arts reviews and God knows where else. Don't get me wrong, its good to see him getting attention, I just hope the book lives up to its press.

As for the imbalances in the text, reading through the reviews he also seems to spend an awful lot of time talking about John Adams, which doesn't bode well. We shall see.

Alastair said...

68 shows, unless you're disowning one...

Jez riley French said...

'...and by Jez riley French, who would kill me if I forgot to also mention his new blog here'

no, I just want to kill you for saying I would kill you if you didn't mention it ! ;)

ps. looking forward to the new cathnor ! can I place an advance order now !

Anonymous said...

"Oh and whatever you do, don't buy the limited edition Marmite with Champagne in it."

No worries mate!, being in the wonderfull world of Vegemite, I wouldn't dream about it! ;-)

Hope all's well
Cor

Richard Pinnell said...

Al, sorry yes 68. None disowned, though listening back to the recording of the first show recently I could easily forget that one happened....

Jez, I owe you a CD or two anyway, so will send a copy fear not

Cor, Marmite mixed with just about anything is still a better option than the dreaded Vegemite...